Interview with a Tank



The time was about midnight.  Quietness and silence dominated everything in the area surrounding the main radio and TV station building.  Tension prevailed, and the air was filled with the smell of exhaust and other unpleasant odors.  Nobody was there, not even traces to indicate that somebody was there.  Except some armed soldiers here and there who move slowly with dullness, and with noticed anxiety that is accompanied by a sense of carelessness.  They look like lifeless and senseless robots that carry out the orders by the word.

          I was supposed to have my interview with the tank in the camp.  But when I headed towards the camp, I was told that the tank went out in an urgent mission, and that it is now present around the main building of radio and TV station.  I was told that I can do the interview with it there as it carries out its duties.  But, we can do that after midnight when quietness prevails, and the mission should be completed and after the whole matters become under control.  We approached the tank after we have been allowed to do so, after hesitation, suspicion, and close scrutiny.  It was standing beside the main building at the head of one of the streets leading to it, as it stood with dignity raising its nose…sorry…I mean raising its gun.   It was silent but it was the silence of an arrogant who feels that he is controlling everything, and in his hands, is the key to the solution of any problem.  Its steel was shining under the lights, and there were traces of blood on its chains.  In its features was a look of challenge and vanity.  There was a smell of iron and powder coming from it which almost poisoned the air. 

I stood in front of the tank and gathered my strength, and then the following dialogue took place.


Author:  I wonder, should I say Good morning or Peace be upon you? 


The Tank:  Neither of them.  If you say "Good morning", I'll answer you "Sorry, I can't guarantee to you that morning will bring any good while you see what the situation is right now.  And if you say "Peace be upon you", I'll answer you "firstly, I am a tool for fighting and killing, and I have nothing to do with peace, nor have I been made for its sake."  Secondly, here is a private advice from me to you.  "Asalamu alaikum" as I know, is the greeting of Islam and the Muslims.  One of my missions now as I understand from the orders that are issued, is to put a limit to Islam and confront Muslims.  That's why I am here now.  So, it is not in your best interest to greet me with this greeting, or else I don't know what will happen… maybe an order will be issued to me suddenly to crush your bones as a punishment for that.  At that time, I will carry out the orders.  So be careful, and as they say, the walls have ears.


Author:  Thank you for your advice.  It looks like the interview with you will be interesting.  And now, let's start, for your time is limited as it seems and there is tension in the atmosphere and you are at work now.  First, allow me to ask you a question…why are you here right now…in the middle of the streets and in the center of the city, and among the civilians.  As I understand, your natural place should be in the military barracks outside the skirts of the city during the time of peace, and in the battlefields during the time of war.  We're just inquiring here, and you have complete and absolute freedom to refuse answering.


The Tank:  I think that this question should be directed mainly to those who brought me here, for I did not come by my own free will.  However, there is no harm in me trying to answer you to the best of my knowledge and based on what I see and notice.  For I know that you cannot and will not be able to pose that question to those whom the question should be posed.  In all honesty, I tell you that this place is really not my natural place.  Thus, I do not deny that I feel uncomfortable and strange in this place.  Don't think that I am lifeless and don't have any feelings. In fact, I have feelings that are perhaps more than some human beings themselves who take pride that they are the only ones who have feelings and emotions.  Sir, I am here because there is chaos among people as it seems.  It looks like people have rebelled against their government and ruler and they want to make change.  I don't know exactly what the reasons are.  Due to the fact that I am a tool in the hands of the army who serve and protect the ruler and government and receive orders from them, I have received orders to move and enter inside the city.  And to crush the opponents, rebellions, and protestors, and to introduce terror in the hearts of those who are hesitant, fearful, and those who prefer safety!  I have to demonstrate the strength and the muscles of the ruler and government in front of the common people.  This way, I will frighten everyone and establish authority and prove that the government and ruler are able to force its power on the people, whether they like it or not and whether they obey or disobey.

Author:  Thank you for your frankness.  But by Allah tell me, how do you feel when you face armless people who have no weapon or strength, and they don't know how to confront you, attack you, or even escape from you.  Simple and helpless people who suffer from disease, ignorance, poverty, worry, and misery and who have been engulfed by years of oppression…People who have been crushed under the feet of their rulers throughout the ages!    How do you feel when you face those people with all your strength, steel, fire, thunder, and sometimes, I'm sorry to say, your cruelty and harshness.  It is an unequal battle, unfair struggle, and unbalanced confrontation.  It gives you a picture that is unreal and unpractical, because you look like the powerful, the oppressor, and the victorious. Why?  Simply because there is no one who confronts you.  But do you think this will be your reality when you face those who are equal to you in strength and might.  Usually, we see you in the battlefields in your real picture; sometimes victorious, sometimes defeated, and sometimes retreating.  Sometimes, you stand in dignity, and move quickly while your gun is high up in the sky, and sometimes you are burned, destroyed, and your gun is down and broken.

          This is your real picture and strength if you face those who are equal to you in strength, or those who are stronger than you.  I hope my words do not upset you, as it is just a truthful comment.  So then, those who brought you here want to give you a fake picture and frighten you to serve his interests and aims.  Exactly as he who wants to create an imaginary hero, fantasy monster, or legendary criminal to achieve certain goals through him.  So he establishes shows, movies, and propagandas for him in which he combats rabbits, mice, the weak, or handicapped, and challenges those who have less strength than him.  Such that in the end, he looks victorious in a fake situation and he becomes a fantasy that frightens the weak.  And the naïve people fear him.  So what is your feeling when you are driven to such situation and find yourself in this sarcastic scenario?  Even if you are the one who is being made a fantasy hero and scary monster?!  Do you think you will be in this fabricated and exaggerated picture if you are confronted by another tank that is greater and stronger, and above you is a jet fighter that is attacking you?  And you don't know from where the missile destined to kill you will come from?  I hope your heart will be open to accommodate this conversation and interview.  We know that some lifeless things are more open and able to accept criticism and second opinion than some or most people.


The Tank:   I understand your view and logic.  Once again, I tell you that this talk should be directed to those who drive and direct me.  But since you asked me, I admit in front of Allah (SWT) that I feel disgrace and shame when I am in this place carrying out this dirty job.  The place is not mine.  We are tools of fighting made to fight and struggle.  Knighthood, challenge, and heroism are part of our structure and being.  We don't feel ourselves except in the battlefield and places of confrontation.  If we achieve victory, we are proud, and if we get defeated, we get burned.  So, bringing us to this place in front of the armless and weak people where there is no enemy like us to face, and no challenge to fear, we consider that to be humiliating to us.  And if you asked the fighter jet, armor, cannon, or gun, they will tell you the same thing.  Do not forget sir that you people made us, and Allah (SWT) put our steel and our might under your disposal.  So we do not have a choice except to carry out your orders and desires, despite our feelings and emotions.  And if Allah (SWT) gave us the freedom to rebel and revolt, we will then turn first against those who brought us here and destroy them as a punishment for humiliating us and placing us in this shameful and reprehensible situation.


Author:  I have another question for you.  What is the opinion of those who drive you and what are their feelings?  After all, you are close to them and know them better.  Here, I don't mean the unjust ruler, the oppressive rulers, or the idiotic military commander who have no consciences, mind, wisdom, or feelings who issue the top orders.  Rather, I mean the soldier or officer who directly drives you and carry out this dirty and humiliating job, as you described.


The Tank:  I don't know what to say to you.  Your questions touch my heart even though my heart is made of iron or steel.  This point in particular is ambiguous to me and I do not understand it.  Those who drive me are simple people who are often times Muslims.  Most of the time they are kind-hearted, and when they leave me and wear their civilian clothes, I can't distinguish between them and those whom I confront and kill in the streets.  Perhaps one of those whom I confront, frighten, terrorize and sometimes kill is one of their fathers, brothers, sons, neighbors, or relatives.  Most probably he is one of them.  Maybe my victim is one of them, once they retire from military service and return back to the line of civilians, at another time and another place.  However, the mission is still the same.  At that time, they will find me under the command of other soldiers who shall come after them.  I will then confront those soldiers who drive me now and I will destroy them.  I will play with them the same game, but this time, they will become the victims.  Unfortunately, they do not understand that.  All what concerns them is to carry out the high command orders, as they were trained in their military institution (regardless of their ranks) without thinking, discussing, rejecting, or at least resigning.  Sometimes, I feel that those who command me are under tension while carrying out this dirty mission.  Sometimes, I feel that they are angry and silently reject the orders, but they can't show their real feelings.  Most other times, I feel that they do not care, or are hypnotized, or that they are made of steel like me.  But there is a difference, for I have feelings even if little.  As for them, they don't.  Allah (SWT) the Great Creator have put me at their disposal and made me obedient to them.  He (SWT) made man have control over me.  As for them, Allah (SWT) did not put them under the disposal of anyone except Him.  He (SWT) gave them the freedom of choice to believe or not believe.  Therefore, I have an excuse, but they do not.  Let me narrate to you an incident which took place a few hours ago so that you may judge for yourself.  It was 1 pm and I was proceeding on my way to this place along with the other tanks.  Then suddenly, we were confronted by a crowd of people who were chanting and raising banners.  Some of them were saying "Allahu Akbar"!  My steel shook when the name of Allah was mentioned and it kept mentioning the name of Allah along with them.  We stopped for awhile till we received orders of what we shall do next.  During that time, I heard one of the crew members who were driving me praying to Allah (SWT) that orders to open fire on these innocent people would not be issued.  Another one was looking carefully at the faces of the demonstrator.  It looked like he lived in the same neighborhood and it seemed that he could identify many of them.  I noticed in his eyes a look of fear, and then I heard the commanding officer whispering in prayers, even though he was very careful that nobody hears him.  He was saying that he hates to be in this situation and in this place.  He was wondering…will he obey the order of opening fire on those poor and armless people, or will he refuse to do so.  He was trying to gather his strength to say no if necessary.  After awhile, the order came through wireless from the commander that we have to move in our way, even if we have to crush this crowd under our chains.  The order said that we have to open fire directly if it is necessary.  As soon as the order was issued, I found the commanding officer and the other two crew soldiers forgetting everything.  Their only concern was to carry out the order as if it is the order of the Great Creator.  I wondered…where did the tension, hesitation, desire to rebel, and prayer go?  My engine started and I thundered and I started to move and proceed as directed.  The soldiers and commander forgot everything and thought they were in the middle of a real battlefield.  My chains started to approach the people who started to throw rocks at me.  Of course these rocks did not affect me, nor could stop me.  The crowd stood in one line in front of me while carrying a big sign which had written upon it, "God is Great!" and "There is no God but Allah."  My engine was about to halt out of respect to the greatness of the word of oneness.  But my driver sped me up, following an order of the commanding officer.  I was then surprised that this same commanding officer ordered another soldier to open fire on those armless and humble believers.  I imagined for a moment that the soldier would reject the order.  And I wondered how this commanding officer could issue such an order which no one has requested him to issue at that particular moment!  And no one will hold him accountable if he didn't issue this order which was not necessary.  The same commanding officer was wondering minutes ago how he could confront his people and fellow citizens!  But he issued the order and he did not hesitate!  The soldier also didn't hesitate to carry out the order of his officer and he opened the fire of my gun on the people!  If it was not for the fact that Allah (SWT) has put me for their disposal, I would not have dared to do that on people who carry and raise high the name of my lord and creator.  How can I do that while I myself remember God in prayer every moment and second?!  But you people do not understand that.  But what can I do?  I opened fire and the victims fell down like flies in front of me; some killed and some injured.  The commanding officer was not satisfied!  So, he ordered that I go and run over their bodies and cut them into pieces.  The driving soldier carried out the order, and once again, I did not have any choice.  If I had my own choice, I would have crashed the enemies of God, but this is His will and He is the Great Creator, and surely He (SWT) has Wisdom in that.  I proceeded with my heavy chains over the bodies; some of them were dead, but some others were injured, and some just fell down.  The bodies were torn apart and blood spurted out, and the innocent souls ascended to its Lord pleased.  The signs that carried the name of Allah (SWT) fell on the ground. My heart which is made from steel tore apart for this ugly, terrible, and outrageous scene.  My iron and guns wept as well as my cannons and chains.  But the crew did not feel all of that because they are veiled and cannot see except that which is in front of their eyes only.  I started to curse them inside myself and curse he who is responsible for this innocent blood that has been shed.  You can see for yourself the remains of the blood of the innocent believers over my chains and my steel.  After the accomplishment of the mission and arriving to this place, the commanding officer praised his soldiers and his commander praised him through the wireless for his blind obedience and his killing of the innocent.  His commander promised him good evaluation and fast promotion.  If this poor commanding officer only knew what sin he now carries over his shoulders and what sin he forced others to carry in front of Allah (SWT), he would've cursed himself and the day his was born!  He may even commit suicide out of sorrow and regret!  But little does he know and little does he believe. 

Then the crew started to pass out tea and relax after they achieved victory in their battle.  I felt that they were proud and arrogant because they were in control and no one could stand in front of them.  Then I was shocked and surprised when I found that the soldier who opened fire awhile ago on the believers, asking his companion if the afternoon prayers was due yet so that he may perform Salat Al Asr.  His companion who drove me over the bodies of the people and tore their bodies into pieces, answered him that the time has not come yet because the shadow of an object was not doubled!  He said that he will pray the afternoon prayer with him in congregation when the time comes and after taking permission from the military officer.  And of course after making sure that this act does not affect the evaluation or their expected promotion or other expected benefits!  This is the story and I will leave you to judge and I think this will answer your question.


Author:  There is no power but with Allah.  To God we belong and to Him we return.  One other question, if you may allow me.  Why was this place in particular that is surrounding the main building of the TV and radio station chosen for you?


The Tank:  Based on what I hear and see, and based on the information and orders that pass by me, this is the most important place for the government and rulers.  And it's not the first time.  Whenever there is chaos or rebellion, the first place they would think of protecting before anything else is this place.  They direct me to it regardless of the price.  This has happened to me many times before.  You know very well that people follow and listen to the media.  If someone took control of this place, he can broadcast proclamations claiming that a revolution or a cue has been successfully achieved.  This will disturb the matters immediately.  Rebellion will widespread and people will be encouraged.   The government and ruler will then lose its most important weapon, and that is, the weapon of fear and terror.  That alone is enough to start a wave and movement which could increase and widespread until the government looses its foundations and the ruler looses his tools of power.  If this happened, rebellion will widespread among other army units and this is what the oppressors fear the most.  The rulers and their government depend on the army and equipments, meaning me and my fellow brothers.  Without it, they will not be there, and without it, the innocent and poor people will take revenge from their oppressive rulers.


Author:  May I ask you about your origin?  Who manufactured you?  And how did you come to this country?


The Tank:  Yes, of course for that is the most simplest of your questions?  I was made in the USA about 15 years ago.  I was originally one of the defective products in the factory due to an error in my chasse.  I was kept in storage until some representatives from your army and government came to make some deals to purchase weapons from America.  I was offered to them with the knowledge of my defect and they agreed to buy me.  But, they requested that this matter be kept secret with the condition that a higher price would be written in my contract than my real place which they actually paid.  Of course, the difference would go into their pockets.  After that, I was shipped here to carry out this scorned role which I carry out every few years or months, depending on the circumstances.  But until now, I did not engage in a real fight or honorable battle.  Once again, there is no power or strength but with Allah.


Author:  Do you allow me to ask another question?


The Tank:  I don't think so.  There goes the crew taking their post inside me and it looks like there is another order for new movement.  God alone knows where we are going, but I have to admit frankly to you that I hate this mission and I curse it and every part in me curses it too.  Even if it is lifeless, but at least it honor, dignity, knighthood, and slavery is to Allah, Lord of all Worlds.  I hope that I don't see you among the innocent crowds because I don't want to crush and kill you without free will from me.  I even can't say "Peace be upon you" now.  Nor can I promise peace to you or your people.  I am nothing but a tool.  I can only pray to Allah (SWT) for myself and for you, and for the believer who believes in Judgment Day.


The dawn seemed to crack while I was about to leave the place quickly, after the tanks thundered as they prepared for another mission…and new victims.  I looked at the rising sun, and the light which started to fill the place.  And I asked.  Is this the new dawn and new sunrise which will remove darkness and put an end to the night?  Or is it a just a regular dawn and another day like everyday, which carries with it more injustice, more oppression, and more victims?  There is no power or strength but with Allah!